Like Rampur’s eponymous knives, the cleavages formed by identity politics run deep in this constituency. Gender politics, however, don’t make the cut here, Samajwadi Party (SP) candidate Azam Khan’s unseemly remarks about his BJP rival Jaya Prada notwithstanding.
Mr. Khan looms large in Rampur, with each election since the late 1980s having pivoted around him regardless of whether he was in the fray or not.
While the constituency is agog about the incident that spurred the Election Commission (EC) to impose a 72-hour restriction on campaigning by Mr. Khan, Sharmeena Begum and her daughter Fatima, both order they “hadn’t heard” what exactly had been said. “We have heard that something was said, but I didn’t hear what it was exactly,” said Ms. Begum, as she paused amid her shopping chores, near the SP headquarters in the area; an assertion repeated by many women in the area. Between the claims of ignorance and SP workers’ contention that the remarks were actually intended for Ms. Jaya Prada’s mentor, Rajya Sabha MP Amar Singh, Mr. Khan seems to have weathered the storm.
Rampur, in northwestern Uttar Pradesh, has approximately 42%, Muslim voters. When coupled with the SP’s support base of Yadavs (3.5%) and alliance partner Bahujan Samaj Party’s core constituency of Jatavs (about 8%), the election is seen as a cakewalk for Mr. Khan.
What his remarks against Ms. Jaya Prada and the EC’s strong censure have achieved, however, is to lend a fillip to the BJP’s supporters: of having temporarily prevailed over Mr. Khan.